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The Casualties of The War Against Cyber Bots: Is your site next?
Cyber bots are nothing new to the online world. They crawl websites day and night, collecting data and transmitting it to various points of the web. However, not all online bots were created equal.
Some online bots work for the good of the Internet - and your website. Google's online bots, for example, crawl the web in search of the best, most up to date information for their search engines and are also important for gathering data used for SEO indexing purposes as well.
Likewise, there are online bots that crawl websites to ensure they are functioning properly and are secure from outside threats. Surprisingly, some of those outside threats also come in the form of online bots and can wreak havoc on your website.
According to a new study released by Incapsula for 2014, cyber bots account for 56% of all website traffic. This estimate is based on a website that averages 100,000+ daily visitors. Data from the study also suggests that the bot/person ratio dramatically increases for smaller sites, with online bots accounting for a whopping 80% of visits to smaller websites averaging 1,000 daily visitors or less.
The ratio of bad bots to good bots in that 56% bot traffic figure is about even, with 29% being the bad variety and 26% being the good variety.
So what are bad bots and why should we be concerned about them?
Bad bots were created for nefarious purposes. Most commonly, they are used as:
Impersonator bots account for 22% of all malicious bots and their numbers are increasing. They are disguised to look like 'good bots' or even human traffic, but launch malware and Ddos attacks once they gain access to the site. The other types of bad bots steal content and private files, spam the sites with comments and backlinks, hijack servers and other nasty things.
This high prevalence of bots also puts a strain on servers and website resources, often times preventing real traffic from accessing the site or being able to navigate it efficiently. These problems tend to affect the smaller websites most often, since the bot traffic percentage is much higher on smaller sites than on larger ones.
Nefarious cyber bots are a serious threat to all websites, regardless of size or popularity. They have becoming increasingly sophisticated in recent years, leaving a path of destruction in their wake. However, there are a few things you can do to protect your website from becoming yet another casualty in this war against the cyber bots.
Installing a bot filtering plugin such as G.A.S.P on your website will eliminate access for the majority of known 'bad bots'. ScrapeSentry has an entire arsenal of bot filtering plugins sorted by type that you can install into the infrastructure of your site.
Content theft is also a big concern among website owners and, you guessed it, there's a bad bot that does that, too. Distill Networks offers a plugin to stop content theft by bots before it becomes an issue.
If you have coding experience and have access to the root files of your website, tweaking a bit of code, as demonstrated in this tutorial, can also repel nefarious bots from accessing your site. Alternately, you can also tweak the settings on your form system files to request authentication if comment or form spam is an issue.
The best way to ensure that your website does not fall victim to these cyber bot exploits is to keep abreast of industry trends to see how nefarious cyber bots continue to mutate and evolve. Educating yourself on how these bots work and what they're up allows you to choose the best tools at your disposal to defend your site against future infiltrations.
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